Decentralization policy forms part of a broader global ideology and effort of the international donor community in favor of subsidiarity and local participation, and represents a paradigm shift from top-down command-and-control systems. Since 2003, the formalization of property rights through titling became an integral component of decentralized land administration efforts in Ghana. The creation of new forms of local government structures and the related changes in the distribution of responsibilities between different levels of government have an impact on natural resource management, the allocation of rights, and the unequal distribution of powers. This paper aims to understand how decentralization reforms modify the balance of power between public administration, customary authorities, and resource end-users in Ghana. Decentralization’s impact is analyzed based on two case studies. Relying on purposive and snowball sampling techniques, and mixed methods, we conducted 8 key informant interviews with local government bureaucrats in land administration, 16 semi-structured interviews with allodial landholders, 20 biographic interviews and 8 focus group discussions with small-scale farmers. The interviews analyzed the institutions and the roles of actors in land administration. Our case studies show that decentralization has the tendency to increase local competition in land administration where there are no clear distribution of power and obligation to local actors. Local competition and elitism in land administration impact the ability of small-scale farmers to regularize or formalize land rights. Thus, the paper concludes that local competition and the elitism within the land administration domain in Ghana could be the main obstacles towards decentralization reforms.
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